Often, we look “upward” for advice and modelling. Yet If we’re open anyone can teach us a lesson. The less privileged man on the street, a neighbour we always thought of as simple, or in my case recently, my own child.
The lesson came packaged up in a playground session, and the teacher was my four year old daughter, who completed the whole length of the monkey bars for the first time.
She didn’t mean to teach me anything, rather she was simply being herself. Lining up behind her big sister, watching carefully as those seven year old arms swung that seven year old body easily from one bar to the next. My four year old’s eyes were intent, her forehead burrowed as she prepared herself to follow.
For the last year she had been attempting to make it to the other side. She’d been watching her older sister, cheering her on and trying, trying, trying, until this day, she finally got it. As I watched the whole thing from beginning to end; the concentration, the determination, and the completion of the goal, the lesson sunk in.
You see, over the last year, my four year old didn’t see someone doing better than her and give up. She didn’t decide that the monkey bars were her sister’s thing and not compete. She watched and she learned. She modelled and practiced and got better until she nailed it.
That day, that made her my hero.
I sometimes look at other professionals in my game – ones who fill the big training rooms and charge the megabucks and command the highest paying high profile clients– and I think, “It’d take me forever to get to that point”.
In these moments I forget how far I have come. I run my own business, I have other therapists that work with me, I have my own premises with it’s own staff. I run regular training events in my area and even if they’re not huge, they’re always a success.
That day, watching my daughter, it hit me. Next time, I might just model my youngest child.
I’ll see someone doing something I don’t think I can do yet and I’ll cheer for them.
I’ll watch and I’ll have a go.
I’ll practice and remain focused and determined, progressing in increments when time allows (we’re not always at the park after all).
It’s not like her path across the monkey bars was completely easy. There were times that she let go and started again deliberately, because of some factor unseen to others. She didn’t give herself a hard time, didn’t call herself a failure and walk away. She just knew she needed a rest, so she could get back up there and go again.
Next time, I’ll do that.
What my daughter taught me that day is that we always have a choice. We can either use our observations of others to measure ourselves against, comparing and diminishing what we are capable of. Once we’ve made our measurement, we can believe we’ll never make it to that level. We can decide we’re lesser than them. We can let ourselves be consumed with jealousy or feelings of unworthiness. We can give up and walk away.
Or, we can use our observations of others to motivate us. We can learn from them, watching closely how they do it, with the assumption that we’re getting there too, someday. We can model their behaviour, cheering them on as we go, knowing that we’ll all arrive eventually too, with effort.
In sharing this story with you, I hope to inspire you to ask these powerful questions of yourself: How are you comparing yourself to others? How do you feel discouraged by the success of those around you? Can you be encouraged instead? Determined? Patient? How can you believe that with effort, and encouragement, you will get there too?
Perhaps, we can be open to letting everyone be our hero. Watching closely and learning from even the most unexpected sources. Observing those who are great, and those who are still small. Watching for the lessons, the inspiration, and the motivation to get yourself across any gap. One day, if you just keep going, you’ll get there. That’s what my beautiful four year old taught me that day.
My daughter, my hero.